Sunday, February 1, 2015

Exploring Hand Blended Tea; Learning to DIY

Growing up I lived in a vast world of natural resources; on  73 acres of land with a bluff in the backyard and a creek in the front.  I've been told I had an old soul and I dreamed of becoming something of a shaman or healer.  I love to prepare, save, store, collect, and keep for a rainy day.  I am not sure but it almost feels as if my desire to commune with nature and harvest the beautiful gifts it has to offer comes from something primal;  Taking me back to the hunter/gathers of my ancestors.

As a child I would explore the wooded hills, picking wild herbs and berries; drying and storing my treasures for the winter.  While I am sure this drove my family nuts, it was one thing that I was allowed to do without much resistance.  I had a home remedy for everything from headaches to fatigue.  My intrigue grew as I grew and branched off into aromatherapy and fragrance.  As an adult I enjoyed growing and drying my homegrown flowers, herbs and fruits for a beautiful little shop I called Lavender Fields.

Having moved so much leaving that familiar Midwestern landscape and climate I find that I am learning to how to grow things all over again.  When I moved to the desert my green thumb temporarily turned brown but now I think I am starting to understand this foreign soil.  While I have found growing things a challenge what has become extremely easy is drying things.

I am taking advantage of some of my new home's best treasures; the citrus fruits, palms (dates and figs) and sun.  I have also found a new passion; Tea.  I have always created homemade teas (very simple such as chamomile or dandelion) and I have always used teas but never really enjoyed a cup for pure pleasure until moving to Cali.  I think the Jasmine blossoms in combination to drinking Jasmine tea was what started my addiction.  Now I am exploring all kinds of fruity and herbal blends, my favorite right now has become Teavana.  But of course it is just in my nature to want to make it myself.

I have been hunting for a recipe for my favorite tea (Rooibos Tropica) without much luck, but what I have so far is that it is a blend of Rooibos Tea, Rose buds, marigold petals, tiny pieces of peach, strawberry, rhubarb and citrus.

Since I am living among many Citrus treas that are not sprayed with chemicals I have decided to create my own citrus peels to use in my tea blends.

To Dry the grapefruit rinds:  Make sure the rind is clean and discard any that has blemishes (you can cut around the spots and keep the good parts.) I first remove as much of the white pith because it is bitter.  This leaves me with a thin, oily layer of skin shown in the picture (this is time consuming but essential.)

Use a small knife with a very sharp blade and a fileting like motion to remove the white pith from the rind.

Cut the rind into very small pieces

Once you have your rind prepped and cut you are ready to dry your citrus peels

Next step is to spread the peel out onto a paper towel or other clean cloth or paper that is on a plate or something stiff that can be moved.  Either place the thin layer of peel in a clean environment that is dry and warm (for me the cupboard works well be cause I live in a dry climate.)

or use the following method:  Place your thin layer of peel directly on a metal screen, mesh, holey pan, baking sheet etc that can be placed in the oven.  Turn your oven on to 200 degrees and allow it preheat. Once the oven is preheated turn it completely off and place your peel into the oven on a middle rack.  Keep the door open slightly to allow the moisture to loft away.  You may need to repeat this several times until they are completely dry.

You may also use a dehydrator and follow the normal steps for dehydrating fruit.

The image below is of the peels in the process of drying but they are not dry enough to store.  If you seal them into an airtight container too soon they will mold your entire container so make sure they are completely dry.

Once the peel is completely dry they will be darker in color, hard, and much smaller they the original size.

Store in a airtight container; I am using a plastic container right now but it is best to use glass whenever possible.  Plastic is porous and will allow the essential oils of the peels to escape.  Place this in a cool dry area.

Now I just need to dry or find and buy the rest of my ingredients; I will keep you posted.  If you by chance know the recipe for the tea I am looking for please share in the comments it would be greatly appreciated.

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